Title: Hapless Hero Henrie (House of Heroes #1)
Author: Petra James
Genre: Fiction, Spies
Publisher: Walker Books
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Henrie is the first girl heir of the Melchior family in 200 years. This was deemed a dereliction of duty by the formidable Octavia Melchior, head of the House of Melchior (HoMe). For HoMe is in the business of heroes for hire. Boy heroes, that is. Girls have no place. When Henrie receives a mysterious note, it sets off a chain of events including a kidnapping, a fancy skateboard manoeuvre and a private jet and she discovers something rotten at the heart of HoMe. As past, present and future collide, HoMe is poised to come tumbling down … unless a new kind of hero can emerge from the rubble.
• A fun and funny middle-grade novel, the successor to Deb Abela’s Max Remy series and Lauren Child’s Ruby Redfort: Genius Girl Spy.
• Perfect for readers who like their heroes to be smart, fearless and ready for action. Featuring strong male and female characters.
• Accessible high-interest text with illustrations by A. Yi, illustrator of the Alice-Miranda, Clementine Rose and Kensy and Max series.
For two hundred years, only boys have been born into the Melchior family – that is, until Henrietta Madeline Melchior came into the world, followed by a trio of shrieks eleven years, eight months and nine and a half days ago, and so this is how the first book in the new series, House of Heroes begins. When Henrie receives a mysterious letter, she sets off on an adventure with Alex, and finds herself at HoMe – the House of Melchior. Henrie tells the story of her birth and life in a dramatic and exciting way, with her own twist on the facts. It turns out that her story is not as far-fetched as Aunt Ellie would have her believe, as we find out as the story goes on. Here, secrets about her family – her parents, her ancestors and that missing portrait of another Henry – as she navigates trying to outsmart her girl-hating boy cousins.
As Henrie ventures from her home with Ellie, following the letter and subsequently falling into a trap on her way to Moldovia. Once there, Henrie starts to learn about the history of her family – and there are a few surprises along the way that I absolutely loved. The brilliance of these secrets was that the hints and Easter Eggs were dropped, and it doesn’t matter if you pick up on them or not, it is equally fun working the answer out on your own or waiting for the Big Reveal later on in the book. I do hope that characters involved in this secret return later on in the series, because I feel like there could be a big surprise on the way for readers. In this high interest, accessible middle grade text, graphics are combined with text to make the story engaging and interactive. I love the names – the alliterative names and the names like Claire Voyant – it is something I would do, as I love names that have a hint of irony and humour behind them. It also allows readers of all abilities to engage with the text and will hopefully grow confidence for any readers who might need that little boost. It should engage both boys and girls as well, giving them a female hero who is not too feminine and who fits into a world where she was told she doesn’t belong but in actual fact, she really does. Henrie is one of those heroes like Kensy and Max that will have wide appeal, and much like Kensy and Max, I cannot wait for the next installment of this series.
What I loved about this book was the way Henrie didn’t give up, yet there were times when she did show vulnerability, and this was perfectly balanced for readers of middle grade books like this. The magic in this book is that it will have a wide appeal, with the inclusion of spies, heroes and turning age-old attitudes on their heads – such as gender roles and what the Melchior family thinks of girls. Henrie is a fabulous character who is bound to have many fabulous adventures and take readers on a spectacular journey through the world of spies and heroes. It is a book that also has an eye-catching cover, and characters that you can cheer on, and characters who you will love seeing fail – but never fear, I am sure they will be back throughout the series to cause trouble for Henrie. This is also done in an entertaining way – and also tries to play a few tricks on the reader, which adds to the fun and the intrigue. All in all, I loved this book and would like to seek out more in this series when they come out.